Football chief ‘in talks’ with gay players who could all come out at once

The head of the Football Association says he is in talks to coordinate several players coming out as gay at once, because no player wants to be “first”.

There are currently no openly gay players in the top tiers of English football. The last player to come out while playing was Justin Fashanu, who came out in 1990 but died by suicide in 1998 after years of homophobic abuse.

Greg Clarke, the head of the FA, has sought to address the issue, telling a committee of MPs last year that he would work to minimise abuse a gay player would face.

In an interview with the Times, Mr Clarke confirmed he is in talks with a number of players, in the hopes several would come out at once.

He said: “I put the message out there that if a number of top-level pros want to come out, why don’t we synchronise it? So one person doesn’t have to come out on their own.

The Premier League, Football League and the FA could do it at the start of the season. At the start of the season, the crowds are happy, the sun is shining.

“I was asked [recently] if football is ready for top-level pros to come out and I said I’m not sure we were.

“There was a survey which said people would support gay people in their own team, but I’m worried about what they said about gay people in the other team, not that they would do bad things, but I said we should prepare well.

I’ve been asking the gay community, ‘How can we provide more support and orchestrate it so people get the right level of support if people want to be open about their sexuality?

“I’ve met 15 gay sports people in the last four weeks to ask their views, including footballers. It is very difficult to get a representative set of gay top-level footballers because some of them are happy with their sexuality and just don’t want anyone to know.

“I don’t want to be part of a process that says, ‘You’ve got to come out’. That’s not right. People are cautious. It’s a one-way street. Once you’re out of the closet, you’re out.”

Former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers and former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger have both come out as gay in recent years, but only after retiring from English football.